Cronulla Sharks star Andrew Fifita knew something had to change if he was going to make an impact in 2021.
But the extreme weight loss he has undertaken in the off-season shows just how motivated the former NSW Origin enforcer is to help his side.
The 31-year old had a phone call with his brother David late last year, speaking about the changes in the game and the pace in which rugby league is being played these days.
Fifita decided he would need to lose 20kg before this season kicked off – and said he has been copping plenty of questions when spotted in public.
“A fan said it to me on the weekend, said I’ve dropped so much weight. I said were you calling me fat last year? I embrace it,” he said on Big Sports Breakfast.
“I know the way the game is going at the moment, so I had to really trim down a bit and I had a good chat to my brother David over in England. He was talking to me about the game speed and the no scrums, and what it does for us big boys I guess.
“For a big boy like myself, I was looking for a sideline and telling our halves to give us a break – but there’s going to be none of that. We’ve been training way more intense – no drinks breaks for us, just a quick 30 seconds and straight back on and keep us up-tempo.
“Do I see your natural big boys who are 120 (kg) plus anymore – I reckon that will be out of the game now. There will be a lot more skinnier blokes trying to get around.
“I’m about 18kg down at the moment. My goal was to get to 20kg, and I reckon by round one I should be there.”
It’s been a tough pre-season for the Tongan international, who will be looking to rack up 200 games for the black, white and blue this year.
Fifita was also open about his desire to be a leader at the Sharks, and his role in bridging the gap between the younger players and the senior members of the squad.
“I’ve been in some fair teams to be honest,” he said.
“I’m not the bloke that likes to talk, I’m the bloke that likes to lead with actions. I know what it means to come through the group as a young bloke.
“I try and bring what is best – I feel like I am that balance. At the club at the moment, that’s my role – trying to hold the boys together and do what is best for the team.”
Fifita also backed the club’s pursuit of Melbourne Storm boss Craig Bellamy, who has been linked to a coaching director role for 2022.
“If you asked anyone – he’s one of those blokes that you want around,” he said.
“Look at the success that Melbourne has had, and him bringing that success to the Sharks – I’d love having him on.
“I don’t know where the role would be, but I would love to have him at the club.”
Fifita will line up for the Indigenous All Stars this weekend in Townsville, when they take on the Maori All Stars.